|By Shawn Childs, Thursday, August 10, 2017|
After a progression year in 2015 when the Vikings went 11-5, their season took a turn for the worst even before it started with Teddy Bridgewater going down before the season. Even with a smart move to grab Sam Bradford, Minnesota slid back to 8-8 with their third missed playoff appearance over the last four seasons. Mike Zimmer will run the franchise for the fourth year. He has a career 26-22 record with one playoff appearance. Over the previous six seasons, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals. The Vikings allowed 307 points, which was the third-lowest total in the league. They finished fourth in yards allowed. This was their third straight season of improvement. George Edwards will have a fourth year to run the defense. He held the same job title with the Dolphins for a couple of seasons. Overall, Edwards has 17 seasons of NFL experience. Over the past three years with Zimmer as head coach, Minnesota ranked 28th, 29th, and 27th in offensive yards allowed. They allowed 327 points (23rd), which was 28 fewer points than 2015. Pat Shurmur ended up being the offensive coordinator in 2016 after Norv Turner stepped down. He held the same position for five seasons for the Rams and Eagles while having a failed experience as the head coach for the Browns in 2011 and 2012 (9-23). Pat has been a coach in the NFL since 1999. The Vikings have never won the Super Bowl with four appearances. They've made the playoffs only five times over the last 16 seasons.
After a great career in Minnesota, Adrian Peterson was let go. He signed with the Saints. The Vikings also parted way with RB Matt Asiata. They brought in Latavius Murray to compete for the starting job. WR Cordarrelle Patterson signed with the Raiders after losing playing time over the last couple of seasons. Minnesota released TE Rhett Ellison as well.
They signed T Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to improve the rushing offense hopefully. Both players struggled in 2016 while never being an edge at their position. They replace G Brandon Fusco, Matt Kalil, and T Andre Smith who were released.
Minnesota didn't re-sign CB Captain Munnerlyn who was a neutral player in 2016. LB Chad Greenway decided to retire. The only two players added to the defense were DE Datone Jones and DT Will Sutton. Jones has been bust so far in his career after getting drafted in the first round in 2013. He has nine career sacks in 59 games with short tackles. Sutton missed half of 2016 due to an ankle injury. He projects as a backup player with no career sacks.
Minnesota didn't have a first-round pick in 2017, but they had 11 picks in the draft. They address their weakness at RB in the second round with Dalvin Cook. He's a shifty runner with underlying power and plus vision. Cook will have value on the outside with enough speed to finish a long run. Dalvin has some ball security risk with questions with his value in pass protection. First round upside, but he needs to clean up multiple issues including his off the field issues.
In the third and fifth rounds, the Vikings added a pair of offensive linemen - C Pat Elflein and G Danny Isidora. Elflein is a power player with value in both run and pass blocking. His foot speed does limit his blocking window, but he works hard with a high motor. Pat has a very good chance of starting in 2017. Isidora will offer the most value in run blocking early in his career until he improves his technique in pass protection. His biggest weakness comes vs. power players while needing to develop a better plan after the snap.
With two picks in the fourth round, Minnesota drafted DT Jaleel Johnson and LB Ben Gedeon. Johnson is quick off the line while playing with high energy. He'll disrupt in against the run and pass if he wins off the snap. When engaged, Jaleel can lose his balance while being out of position to finish his attack. He needs more upper body strength while maintaining his body. Gedeon plays with power and short area quickness, but his range is limited with questions about his tackling ability. For now, Ben projects to be an option on special teams. His vision and instincts offset some of his shortfalls in athletic ability.
WR Rodney Adams and WR Stacy Coley were the Vikings choices in the fifth and seventh round. Adams looks to be one-dimensional speed option with questionable hands and strength. He has some quickness and open field moves if he secures the ball. Coley can flash with a free release with a decision to go deep or cut to the inside on a crossing pattern where his speed and acceleration offer an edge. His route running needs improvement as well as his release.
Minnesota selected TE Bucky Hodges in the sixth round. He'll bring plus speed to the TE position with the ability to beat a defense deep. His quickness and route running aren't where they need to be at this point in his career. Bucky will win many jump balls so he should be a scoring option at the goal line. Hodges needs to improve his hands.
The last three picks in the seventh round were used to improve the depth on defense - DL Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Elijah Lee, and CB Jack Tocho. Odenigbo earned his keep in college as a power rusher with losing value against the run. His quickness isn't an edge, and he needs to be more than one trick pony rushing the QB at the next level. Ifeadi has talent and upside once he improves his technique. Lee is an undersized linebacker with enough speed to cover the whole field. He needs a clean run while needing to improve his vision and decision making when attacking the line of scrimmage. Elijah may develop into an option in pass coverage. Tocho is a strong CB with shortfalls in his technique and long speed. He works hard and understands his responsibilities, but his ceiling isn't very high.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Vikings' rushing offense has about a league-average schedule. Their best matchup is against the Browns with two slightly favorable games vs. the Bears. They have five mid-tier matchups (PIT, BAL, CAR, and GB X2) on the ground.
Minnesota has five games (GB X2, CAR, ATL, and NO) against teams that struggle to defend the pass. They have five below par matchups (CHI X2, LAR, BAL, and CIN) as well.
The Vikings were last in the NFL in rushing yards (1,205) with nine rushing TDs. They gained only 3.2 yards per rush with six runs over 20 yards. They had 45 negative rushes and only 24 runs over 10 yards.
Minnesota led the NFL in completion rate (70.4), but they ranked 18th in passing yards (3,836) with 20 passing TDs and only five Ints. Their offensive line allowed 38 sacks and 104 QB hits.
LT Riley Reiff signed a massive five-year contract ($58.75 million) in March despite being only a league average player for the Lions over the last five years. Detroit selected him in the first round in 2012. The Vikings need him to make a step forward in all areas.
LG Alex Boone battled a hip injury early in the season plus a knee/shoulder/concussion issues at the beginning of November leading to a couple of missed games and neutral value. He's been a steady player over seven years in the league with two years with plus value (2012 and 2014).
C Pat Elflein should start in his first season in the league with a chance to improve both the run and pass blocking. Nick Easton was a losing option over his six starts late in 2016.
RG Joe Berger played well at center for multiple seasons of his career after getting drafted in the sixth round in 2005 by the Panthers. This season he'll move to right guard at age 35. His game appeared to be fading in 2012 before playing at high level in 2015 and 2016.
RT Mike Remmers signed a big contract as well in the offseason ($30 million for five years). He's never been a league average player, but he did look closer to league average in 2014 and 2015.
You have to give the Vikings credit for paying to improve their offensive line. It can't get any worse for the run game. At best, the line would be league average, and that would be a move in the right direction.
Minnesota ran the ball 39.3 percent of the time in 2016, which was a huge drop off from 2015 (50.9 percent). This team is built to play solid defense with a ball control offense led by a strong running game.
The Vikings have four games (LAR, BAL, and DET X2) that struggle to run the ball. The only matchup with a pulse on the ground is the Falcons.
Minnesota has a tough schedule for their passing attack with the most risk coming in three games (NO, WAS, and ATL) followed by six mid-tier games (PIT, DET X2, GB X2, and BAL). The face only one team (the Rams) with a weak passing attack.
This defense needs to improve against the run. They finished 20th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,711) with nine rushing TDs. Ball carriers gained 4.2 yards per rush with only six runs over 20 yards.
The Vikings ranked 3rd in the NFL in pass yards allowed (3,327) with 22 passing TDs and 14 Ints. They allowed 6.6 yards per pass attempt with 41 sacks.
DE Everson Griffen has 30.5 sacks over the last three seasons with solid production in tackles (58, 44, and 48). He's been a steady asset on this defense for the last four years. DE Danielle Hunter was a big part of the growth of this defense. He had 12.5 sacks and 56 tackles in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the second round in 2015. DT Sharrif Floyd missed all but one game in 2016 due to a knee injury that required surgery. His slow recovery was a result of nerve damage putting his status for the beginning of 2017 in doubt. Floyd is a former first pick (2013) with balance skill set. DE Linval Joseph had a career-high 77 tackles last year with steady value in sacks (4).
LB Eric Kendricks blossomed in his second season in the league. He finished with 109 tackles with 2.5 sacks, nine defended passes, one Int, and a TD. Minnesota added him in the second round in 2015. LB Anthony Barr now has three straight years of success in tackles (70, 68, and 70) with 9.5 sacks over this span. He did lose some value defending receivers in coverage. The Vikings drafted him in the first round in 2014. Rookie Ben Gedeon may be the best option to start at the other linebacker slot. His range is limited while at least having early down value against the run.
Harrison Smith is one of the better safeties in the leagues with plus value in run support. Last year was the first time in his career that he didn't have an interception. He suffered a high ankle sprain in December that required surgery. The Vikings selected him in the first round in 2012. S Andrew Sendejo is a neutral player who suffered an ankle and a knee injury last year with the latter requiring surgery. CB Xavier Rhodes had a career-high five Ints in 2016. He's been a steady option over the last four seasons after getting drafted in the first round in 2013. CB Trae Waynes showed growth in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. This season he needs to unseat CB Terence Newman as a starter. Trae had 50 tackles, 11 defended passes, and three interceptions while being in the field for about 60 percent of the action. Newman played at a high level at age 38.
There's plenty of talent on this defense with multiple first-round picks plus upside options developing on the bench. If this season they can improve against the run, Minnesota will make a run at the playoffs. Top five Fantasy defense with scoring ability in the return game as well.
QB Sam Bradford - Quality Backup
After a poor start to his career over five seasons with the Rams (18-30-1 record with 58.6 percent completion rate), Bradford proved to be serviceable over the last two seasons (14-15) highlighted by success with the Vikings (71.6 percent completion rate) with an excellent TD to INT ratio (20:5). Last year he had only two games with over 300 yards passing and two games with three TDs. The Vikings struggled to block for him in five games (4, 6, 5, 5, and 4 sacks). Sam is a former first round draft pick (2009) with one more chance to showcase his upside. The Vikings don't expect Teddy Bridgewater to be a factor in 2017 after suffering a disastrous knee injury. Minnesota has some talent at WR with a viable option at TE. Sam only has a league average opportunity due to game plan so his only value would come in a chaser game unless the Vikings' offense made a huge step forward. Outside chance at 4,000+ yards (most of his career) with about 23 TDs.
RB Dalvin Cook - Sleeper (undervalued)
There's a lot to like in Cook's resume at Florida State. He rushed for 4,464 yards on 687 carries over three seasons while scoring 48 TDs. Dalvin even chipped in with 79 catches for 935 yards. He looked more explosive rushing the ball in 2015 (7.4 yards per rush), but he gained an amazing 14.8 yards per catch last season. His running style has something in common with Devonta Freeman who also went to FSU. The key for his upside will breaking free at the second level of the defense where his vision and his open field quickness will create huge plays. Cook will make plenty of yards after contact due to his strength and ability to break arms tackles. Dalvin will be a massive threat in the passing game, but he needs to improve his technique and toughness in pass protection. Most explosive back on the roster, which invites high upside after each time touching the ball. For now, split role on early downs with some value in the passing game. The Vikings will run the ball well over 400 times in 2017, so he has a chance to get 200+ rushes as well with 25+ catches. I see 1,200+ yards with mid-level TDs. His best value will come late in the year. If Murray has an injury, Davin will be a top 10 back if he can handle the blitz.
RB Latavius Murray - Quality Backup
Over the last two seasons with 461 carries, Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry with 18 rushing TDs. He only has 100 yards rushing in four of his 30 games played over the last two years. Latavius battle an ankle injury in 2016, which required surgery In March to remove bone spurs. He has 74 combined catches in 2015 and 2016 with growth in his yards per catch (8.0) last year. The Raiders looked to get him off the field on passing down while looking his way in the red zone. Murray has one season on his resume with over 1000 yards rushing with pass catching ability. The Vikings have a veteran back in Jerick McKinnon plus an upside rookie in Dalvin Cook. I have to believe McKinnon played his way out of the rotation and I can't trust Cook on pass downs. This puts Latavius on a path for 200+ rushes and the top value on the team in the passing games. Bradford will dink and dunk with the best of them leading to RBs catching 82 passes for 569 yards and two TDs on 111 targets in 2016. I expect Murray to catch over 50 passes with an early shot at rushing TDs. The Vikings' offensive line should be better, so his opportunity comes down to how much he outplays Cook. Something along the lines of 1,100 combined yards with eight to ten TDs seems like a reasonable expectation. More of RB3 due to his competition for playing time.
RB Jerick McKinnon - Deep-league Only
The question of offensive line or RB talent is one a Fantasy owner must decide on many teams each year. The Vikings struggled to run the ball last year, and McKinnon was a train wreck when he had the ball in his hand in 2016. He gained only 3.4 yards per rush and 5.9 yards per catch. Jerick had 202 touches last season, which proved he wasn't the next version of Adrian Peterson. Sensing a bench warming job in 2017, McKinnon worked out with Pederson in the offseason to add more bulk. Tough to write him off at age 25, but he looks to be on the outside looking in.
WR Stefon Diggs - Solid/Safe Pick
Over the first two games of 2016, Diggs caught 16 passes for 285 yards and two TDs on 20 targets. Fantasy owners thought they struck gold. After two short games (4/40 and 5/47), he missed Week 5 with a groin injury. Stefon flashed again from Week 8 to Week 10 (8/76/1, 13/80, and 13/164 with 42 targets). Over the last seven games of the season, Diggs missed two games due to a knee and a hip injury. In his last five games played, he had fewer than 60 yards receiving in each game with one TD. Over 13 games, Stefon finished with 84 catches for 903 yards and three TDs on 112 targets. He's missed six games in his two years in the league. His game points to 100-catch upside with 1,100 yards and short TDs, but Diggs needs to prove he can handle the wear and tear of a 16-game schedule.
WR Adam Thielen - Quality Backup
The Vikings only looked Thielen's way 17 times over the first four games of the season leading to four short games (4/54, 4/41, 3/29, and 2/21). With Diggs out of the lineup in Week 5, Adam posted his best game of his career (7/127/1 on eight targets). He drifted his way through the next four games before becoming a viable week-to-week option over his next five games played (5/65/1, 8/53, 7/86, 4/011, and 12/202/2). He left Week 15 early due to neck issue while coming just about empty in Week 17 (1/7). Adam had a huge catch rate (75.0) with 16 catches for 20 yards or more. His success points to a WR2 in 2017, but Thielen does have a first round draft pick sitting behind him on the depth chart. The Vikings signed him to a three-year deal in March, so they do believe in him. Interesting player, but I would buy insurance. Last year he started ten games.
WR Laquon Treadwell - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over three years at Mississippi, Treadwell caught 202 passes for 2393 yards and 21 TDs. His breakthrough season came in his junior year in 2015 when Laquon caught 82 balls for 1153 yards and 11 TDs. He even completed three passes for 134 yards and a TD. His speed (4.65) is well below league average for his position, but he more than makes up for it in his size (6'2' and 221 lbs.) and power. I see a combination of Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson in his skill set. Treadwell will add scoring value in the red zone. Laquon has great hands where he will win many jumps balls even with a defender in his hip pocket. His route running and feel for defensive positioning will be an asset at the next level. The Vikings don't throw a ton of balls, but his game and talent will command plenty of looks in the near future. In his rookie season, Laquan only caught one pass for 15 yards on three targets while being on the field for only 80 plays. Treadwell did play through an ankle issue, which was part of the reason for his failure.
WR Michael Floyd - Not Draft Worthy
I'd like to think Floyd has a chance to find his game, but he has a drinking problem. He's been under house arrest for three months, but he failed a random breathalyzer test five times in mid-June. Talent WR, but getting his life back in order is his priority. Possible training camp cut with his best chances of regaining his career coming in 2018. Player to follow as his name will command draft interest.
TE Kyle Rudolph - Solid/Safe Pick
The change in QB to Bradford was a big win for Rudolph in 2016. He set career highs in catches (83), yards (840), and targets (132). Sam did an excellent job getting him the done field leading to 11 catches for 20 yards or more. His catch rate (62.9) was a step back for 2015 (67.1) due to the high volume of chances. Over the last six games of the season, Kyle caught 44 passes for 436 yards and two TDs on 64 targets. His success will command continue chances in 2017, but his value may come down to the health of the WR core. His starting point for me is 70 catches for 700+ yards and five to seven TDs as I expect improvement in the production from the WR position.
PK Kai Forbath - Bye Week Fill-in
Over seven games in 2016 for the Vikings, Kai made all 15 of his field goals while missing three of his 14 extra point chances. He's made 86.6 percent of his FGs in his career in the NFL with short chances from 50 yards or longer (5-for-8). For the year, the Vikings scored 36 TDs while creating 31 field goal attempts (27 made field goals). Forbath will compete with Marshall Koehn for the starting kicking job. He made 28 of his 36 field goals at Iowa while missing six of his 92 extra point tries. Tough to invest in either option until we see what shakes out in the regular season.